Lionel Messi’s goalscorer, Cristiano Ronaldo’s first outside Europe… Three things to remember from PSG’s friendly in Saudi Arabia

Lionel Messi’s goalscorer, Cristiano Ronaldo’s first outside Europe… Three things to remember from PSG’s friendly in Saudi Arabia

Lionel Messi’s goalscorer, Cristiano Ronaldo’s first outside Europe… Three things to remember from PSG’s friendly in Saudi Arabia

Paris Saint-Germain played a friendly on Thursday against a team made up of the best players in the Saudi league, and won despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace (5-4).

Like a new break in the season, with a very special flavour. Paris Saint-Germain won in a friendly match against the Riyadh Season Team (5-4), a team that brings together the best players in the Saudi league, on Thursday 19 January. At the end of this prestigious match, the first shock since the end of 2020 between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – who played his first match since his arrival in Saudi Arabia -, there is no sporting conclusion to be drawn, but the symbolic images will remain.

Cristiano Ronaldo double scorer for his first

Three weeks after the formalization of his arrival in Saudi Arabia, Cristiano Ronaldo was expected on Thursday. Due to a non-granted ban imposed by the English FA after striking the hand of a 14-year-old fan at Everton last April, the Portuguese had not yet been able to make his debut for his new team, Al-Nassr . The white shirt with purple trim that he wore against PSG, very different from the yellow shirt that he will soon wear with his club, will remain the first shirt he will have worn outside of Europe.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner worked to his advantage, scoring the first two goals of Riyadh’s eleven this season. The first was scored from a penalty that he obtained himself, after receiving a punch from PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas, completely missing his exit (34th). The second is another draw, at 2-2, just before the break, with “CR7” more skilful than Sergio Ramos after his header on the post (45th + 6). The one who will celebrate his 38th birthday on February 5th finally gave way in the 61st minute, after appearing rather on his legs, just over a month after his last appearance on the pitch, thehe missed out on gold at the quarterfinals of the World Cup with Portugal against Morocco.

Kylian Mbappé and Cristiano Ronaldo during the friendly match between PSG and Riyadh Season Team in Saudi Arabia, January 19, 2023. (FRANCK FIFE/AFP)

Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé in sight, Bernat sent off

Paris, who have been struggling with two defeats in their last three Ligue 1 outings (at Lens and in Rennes, last Sunday), neither reassured nor disappointed, given that the outcome of the meeting would not have changed anything during the season for the club from the capital. The important thing was to avoid the slightest injury during this journey which will inevitably impact the organizations, four days earlier sixteenth final of the Coupe de France against Pays de Casseland less than a month from the Champions League round of 16 against Bayern Munich.

Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé were the two most important players on Thursday. The Argentine signaled himself first, opening the scoring on a serve from the second, from the 3rd minute, but Mbappé also had his goal, converting a penalty obtained by “la Pulga” (60′). In the meantime, the Frenchman had distilled two more assists, first for Marquinhos (43rd), then for Sergio Ramos (53rd), after a party on the left. The two men went off just after the hour, when Paris led 4-3, together with Neymar, who was less successful, such as his missed penalty (45th + 2).

It should be noted that the Parisian club spent more than 50 minutes in numerical inferiority, due to the expulsion of Juan Bernat, for a foul in the position of last defender in the 39th. Despite this disadvantage, the current Ligue 1 leader has never been behind. In the second period he also ends up doing the counterattack thanks to the incoming Hugo Ekitike (78th), who doesn’t flinch after being found behind the defense. Sufficient margin not to fear being shot down, even if the last ten minutes passed under fire from the Saudi team, Anderson Talisca who managed to shorten the distance just before the triple whistle, with a nice shot from distance (90° + 4).

Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan (left), Saudi minister Turki al-Sheikh (center) and Qatar PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi (right) before the friendly match between Paris and Riyadh Season Team, Saudi Saudi Arabia, January 19, 2023. (FAEZ NURELDINE / AFP)

An advertising stand

The match had no sporting interests. The goal for Saudi Arabia was to take advantage of the presence of two of the best players in football history to stage the diplomatic warm-up with Qatar, already observed at the World Cup. As a sign of the importance of the evening, a relative of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Minister Turki al-Sheikh, entered the lawn holding the hand of the Qatari president of the PSG, Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

The recent signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, who settled in the Al Nassr club, is just a step in Saudi Arabia’s desire to develop through sport. The only candidate for the 2027 Asian Football Cup, future organizer of the 2029 Asian Winter Games, is also expected to bid for the 2030 World Cup. Last September, Egypt announced that it was in consultation with Greece and Saudi Arabia to submit a joint offer deal for the event.

In addition to this commercial operation, Paris Saint-Germain took the opportunity to show off its 4th shirt for the first time this season: a black shirt, with intersecting yellow lines.

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